Starting with the installation process, On the ArcoLinux website they have posted some detailed instructions on how to get started if you’ve never done this before. Once you’ve booted into the USB you are greeted with a live XFCE environment with some links to Gparted and the installer which is Calamares. I particularly like how they’ve included a section which allows you to go through a long list of commonly used programs and packages and check a box on whether you would like to include them in your installation. There is a good selection here which even includes some popular themes and icons. I think this is a great addition to any installer as it allows the users a bit more control over which programs are installed out of the box. The only negative here is how long it took. It was by no means the slowest distribution to install that I’ve used but it certainly took a bit longer than what I am used to.
However once the installation process has finished the waiting is over. This was one of the faster implementations of Deepin I’ve used. It comes with Deepin version 15.11 which is still the most current version available while we are still waiting for the delayed release of version 20.
Being based on Arch means you have a rolling release distro which will keep you updated with the latest packages as they become available. You also have access to the arch user repository, or AUR for short. The AUR is community driven repo which contains over 63 thousand additional packages that it can compile from source without too much extra effort from the user.
Upon starting your computer you will be greeted with the welcome screen which has some useful links to get you started, one of them being “chose your project”. Clicking this will open up their webpage that brings you to phase 1. As you can see we’ve skipped most of these phases as we opted for their Deepin desktop iso. But I think this is a brilliant way to get new users up and running. It also goes to show how much work has been put into this project.
Their implementation of Deepin is very well configured. It comes with the usual host of Deepin specific programs like Deepin music or video. I’m personally not the biggest fan of these programs and that it includes Deepin’s own file manager. I found myself uninstalling a lot of these and optining to install alternative programs that work better across different desktop environments and windows managers, which I’ll get into shortly. You’ll find most of the settings for Deepin are housed within the control centre which opens up on the right. This works well for the most part however it feels a little cramped when viewing and editing the keyboard shortcuts. Talking of shortcuts, Deepin has some brilliant touchpad gestures that work without any additional setup required. I forgot just how much I enjoy using Deepin as a desktop environment and ArcoLinux have done a brilliant job with their implementation of it combined with Arch as it’s base you get a very modern and refined User interface and experience.
Moving on to the performance side of things. On my machine and hardware setup which is getting pretty old now by today’s standards, the performance has been outstanding. Starting up my computer is super fast and I only experienced one note worthy crash during my week. Which was product of having one too many virtual machines, a few tabs on chrome open while also playing a competitive game of Counter Strike. Needless to say we lost that game, sorry team… Before I went crazy installing multiple desktop environments and windows managers plus a slew of random packages my RAM consumption was sitting around the 800 MB range. After that craziness ensued I was using around 40mb more which is pretty good going.
The arco Linux tweak tool is an amazing little program allowing you to easily install other desktop environments with a couple of clicks. It also lets you configure grub, Pacman, lightdm config,neofetch config, etc all from within one application.
The choice of Desktop environments/WM’s are brilliant I managed to try out quite a few but there are loads left for me to try the ones i did get to use besides Deepin were
Mate which was version 1.24 that is quite a traditional Linux Desktop environment
Gnome which was fully updated to the very latest version of 3.36.1. I also managed to get it working with Dash to Dock from the repository which at the time of writing wasn’t updated yet to work with the latest version of GNOME.
Awesome unlike Mate and Gnome is a windows manager that is blazing fast and you can configure it to your hearts content
i3 another windows manager which I have a bit more experience with using and is probably my favourite tiling window manager. An ArcoLinux have provided quite a clean setup here
Openbox is another window manager again highly configurable but this one is a stacking window manager.
I also used herbstluftwm which is a customizable tiling window manager but i’d need to spend a bit more time with it exclusively to really get to drips with it .
Updating your distro is as simple as opening Pamac and navigating to the updates tab and letting it do it’s thing. Alternatively you could also just pop open a terminal and type the update command sudo pacman -Syu.
My only small complaints about this distribution are pretty surface level. I’m not huge a fan of the icons that were installed by default, they’re just a bit too circular for me and I found the colours a little clashing with the rest of the desktop.
My other complaint which I’ve already mentioned in the beginning of this video is just how long it took to install. I did a side by side installation run of this and Ubuntu and the difference in the length of time it took were night and day with Ubuntu coming out on top by quite a significant margin.
Final thoughts –
I’ve really enjoyed my time with ArcoLinux and would happily recommend it to anyone looking for an arch based distro that takes care of a lot of the setup for you while also granting the user a bit of freedom in the installation period to choose which programs and packages they would like to use from the onset. I particularly like their Deepin version but with the including of the ArcoLinux tweak tool it kind of caters to everyone. If you feel at home on a more fully fledged desktop environment but want to easily try out a window manger like i3 or awesome it’s a pain free process that only requires a couple of clicks. The defaults configurations are sane and everything works as you would expect. They have also gone through the steps of keeping their website up to date with clear instructions and guidelines on how to get everything up and running. This has been one of the more fun weeks I’ve spent in this series and i’ve said it before, but actually enjoying the distro you are using and not seeing it as merely a launchpad for you to play a game or get some work done is an important aspect of a distribution. Overall this is up there with some of the best distro’s I have used in this series and one that I will keep a close eye on it’s development.